SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

Each week, host Jeff Probst will answer a few questions about the latest episode of ‘Survivor: Cagayan.’

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: One of the things that has amazed me most about this season is how some people seem to be playing with little to no regard for how their actions may hurt them later with a possible jury vote. Tony was so worried about LJ that he blew up his alliance to get rid of him, but when this went down — not knowing then how it would play out later — did you think at the time this was a bad move because he (like Kass before him) now may have a jury filled with people angry at his betrayal should he make it that far?

JEFF PROBST: I think Tony is similar to Russell in many ways, one of which is I don’t really think he thinks too long about any of his moves. Not taking away from his game play, so far it’s working very well. He appears to be going off gut instinct, probably the same thing that he follows as a cop. I also think he has a pretty good read of people. But if he took a bit more time to evaluate some of his moves he might not make them. Is that a good thing? Hard to know at this point. The other factor is you have to get to the end in order to have a shot at winning. So playing “polite” and worrying about the jury too much can be a real hazard to your game. Before you know it you are on the jury. The goal is to 1) Get to the end 2) Get to the end with people you believe you can beat. So offending the jury is only relevant in regards to where you stack alongside the other finalist/s. But I think we can all agree that several of these players are playing to win.

EW: This is where the true evil genius of Survivor comes into play. Honestly, I don’t know how everyone is not a paranoid mess when all it takes is one crackpot or jumpy individual to make everything come crashing down. Do you think it’s the culture of get-them-before-they-get-me that Survivor instills that leads to all the paranoia?

PROBST: I think the game has changed in the last couple of years and in a very good way. The strong, aggressive players (the type of player we always hope for) seem to be weeding out those who didn’t come to play. Personally, I like it. It makes me respect the people who are playing more than ever. Survivor is a zero-sum game. My gain is equal to your loss. You are voted out, my odds just increased by one. So the good players are always thinking one thing — the only way you get to the end is by getting rid of the others. So you have to be aware at all times. If you hesitate to take someone out when your gut is screaming at you to vote for them — chances are good you are the one going home…because they are voting for you! We’ve seen it week after week for years. It’s not because people are jumpy, it’s because they are playing Survivor. The game is — you have to survive the vote. By any means necessary. Otherwise you’re gone.

EW: You have a group of youngsters called the Dream Team who test out all of the challenges in advance you so guys can test out all of your camera angles and make sure the challenge is running smoothly and make any last minute changes that might be necessary. You brought up a good point about how a simple memory challenge is not so simple when you have been starving and living out in the elements for 25 days. That got me wondering. I know that traditionally Dream Teamers and actual contestants usually perform pretty equally because the Dream Teamers are well fed and rested but the contestants have more at stake so are able to draw upon that extra adrenaline. But I wonder if you’ve noticed whether in mental challenges like this if Dream Teamers tend to do better because focus is so difficult when you’re tired and hungry. What say you, Jeff?

PROBST: Absolutely. On day 30-something, the Survivors brains just aren’t operating at the same efficiency as they were on day one. It’s why challenges like memory games are really difficult to test for anything other than camera blocking. You just can’t predict how they’ll play out. Personally, I’ve become less and less fond of memory games. We may take a break from them for a while. (No promises, but that’s the gut feeling right now.) They just don’t have enough action to ensure they’ll be exciting, so you are forced to rely on a very close finish, which fortunately we had this week.

[UPDATE! After Jeff told me he wasn’t crazy about the memory challenges, I gave him my reasoning for why I felt these challenges were actually valuable for the TV audience — and you can read those in my Survivor recap. We had a long back and forth about it discussing the pros and cons. He then decided to check in with you all, the viewers, about it and he then emailed me this update later.]

Based on your statement that you actually liked the play along factor of memory challenges — I went to Twitter tonight to ask the fans what they thought. Are memory challenges fun because you can play along or boring to watch? The overwhelming majority was “fun to play along!” So never mind what I said about taking a break from them! They’re back in the rotation! I love getting direct and immediate input from the people who matter most — our fans. Glad you shared your thoughts as it prompted the question in the first place.

EW: BONUS QUESTION! Because we need to know: Was there a hidden immunity idol clue hidden at the Survivor spa reward? (We know there is some idol with special powers hidden around camp.)

PROBST: Ah… I can’t tell you. Some things must remain a secret. Will only say if it was me, I’d always be looking. Why not? What’s to lose?

EW: Uh-oh, that looks like a pretty nasty fall that Woo takes next week. Preview us up for the next episode, sir!

PROBST: Another fantastic episode. Truly. You’re gonna love it. Yes, Woo takes a fall… and could a letter from home change the game?

Also make sure to read Dalton’s recap. And for ‘Survivor’ scoop sent directly to you, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

Episode Recaps

SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

Strangers starve themselves on an island for our amusement in the hopes of winning $1 million, as host Jeff Probst implores them to "Dig deep!"

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